TikTok trend pushed these automakers to the top of most stolen cars in U.S.

The Chevy Silverado is no longer the most stolen vehicle in the U.S. — now it's these two
Written by Jim Belt in News 14 May 2024

If you're a proud owner of a Hyundai or Kia, you might want to keep a closer eye on your ride. According to the latest Hot Wheels report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), models from these two brands topped the list of most stolen vehicles in the U.S. last year.

So, what’s driving this trend? A viral TikTok challenge. Yes, you read that right. A social media trend has influenced the world of auto thefts, directing thieves towards specific makes and models. Hyundai and Kia vehicles, particularly the Elantra, Sonata, and Optima, have become prime targets.

Key takeaways:

  • TikTok videos taught thieves to steal Hyundai and Kia cars using just basic tools. This caused a huge rise in thefts of these models.
  • The most stolen cars in America last year were the Hyundai Elantra, Sonata and Kia Optima. Usually trucks and SUVs top the list.
  • Hyundai and Kia are trying to fix this problem. But owners need extra security or watchfulness to not get their car stolen because of TikTok.

The Hyundai Elantra compact took the not-so-coveted first place with a whopping 48,445 reported thefts in 2023. Its midsize sibling, the Sonata, wasn't far behind at number two with 42,813 stolen units. But Kia wasn't letting Hyundai hog all the ignominy - the Optima sedan came in third with 30,208 thefts.

Why these cars?

The TikTok challenge demonstrates how to start these vehicles without a key, exploiting a vulnerability in the ignition system of certain models. This loophole has made them an easy target for would-be thieves, catapulting these brands to the top of the most stolen list.

"This is a massive peak in vehicle theft", said David J. Glawe, President and CEO of the NICB. "For years, domestic trucks and SUVs dominated the most stolen lists. Seeing two companies dominate the top three most stolen vehicle spots is truly remarkable."

So what's behind this Korean car crime spree? The NICB points the finger squarely at viral social media videos showcasing just how easy it is to pinch certain Hyundai and Kia models using just a screwdriver and a USB cable.

The infamous "Kia Boyz" became TikTok stars by blatantly demonstrating the trick, with one brazen thief even filming himself swiping a Kia in just 35 seconds.

Both Kia and Hyundai have tried to get ahead of the problem, with Kia offering deterrent devices for owners. But the simplicity of the viral theft methods seemed to override those efforts last year.

In total, six Kia models made the NICB's top 10 list, including the boxy Soul, compact Forte, and Sportage SUV. "Criminals are capitalizing on the vulnerability of Kias and Hyundais in a way we haven't seen in years," Glawe stated. Clearly, these "how to steal a car" videos struck a major chord with automotive bandits.

But it’s not just Hyundai and Kia feeling the heat. Audi has also found itself in the crosshairs, with models like the A4 and Q5 experiencing a surge in thefts. Good ol' American iron still made an appearance. The Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup landed fourth with 23,721 thefts, while Ford's F-150 grabbed ninth spot with 15,852 trucks gone missing. Honda's Accord and Civic sedans weren't spared either.

For car enthusiasts, the rise in thefts is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a call to action. Whether you drive a classic hot rod or a modern pickup, taking steps to secure your vehicle has never been more critical.

So, what can you do to protect your ride? Here are some practical tips:

  1. Invest in a Steering Wheel Lock: This old-school method can deter thieves by making it visibly more challenging to steal your car.
  2. Install a Car Alarm System: A loud alarm can scare off potential thieves and alert you and your neighbors to any suspicious activity.
  3. Use a GPS Tracker: If the worst happens and your car is stolen, a GPS tracker can help law enforcement locate it quickly.
  4. Park in Well-Lit Areas: Thieves prefer the cover of darkness. Parking in well-lit, populated areas can reduce the risk of theft.
  5. Consider an Immobilizer: This device prevents the engine from starting without the correct key, adding an extra layer of security.

The moral of the story? If you're rocking a Hyundai or Kia, you might want to splurge on extra security or always keep a watchful eye. As the NICB report indicates, no one wants to be the latest victim of a TikTok-inspired crime trend.